Jacksons Stay Loyal To The Racing Game

Roy and Gretchen Jackson with One Master after winning the 2019 Prix de la Foret | Scoop Dyga


When Roy and Gretchen Jackson purchased their 190-acre property in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 1978, they christened it Lael Farm, the Gaelic word for loyalty. Today, more than 40 years into the couples' transatlantic forays in the world of breeding and racing Thoroughbreds, that name could hardly be more appropriate.

The Jacksons, both lifelong horse people, became household names in the sport and beyond in 2006 during their months-long attempt to save the life of their GI Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro (Dynaformer) after the colt suffered what was ultimately a fatal injury shortly out of the gates in the GI Preakness S. That wasn't the first time the Jacksons had worn their loves of their horses on their sleeves, and it was far from the last: today, Barbaro's dam, the 25-year-old La Ville Rouge, is enjoying her retirement in a paddock within eyesight of the Jacksons' home on Lael Farm. Her paddock mate is the 23-year-old Superstar Leo (Ire) (College Chapel {GB}), who has provided the Jacksons with so many happy days on the European racing circuits, particularly thanks to her granddaughter, the triple G1 Prix de la Foret winner One Master (GB) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}). Superstar Leo was the first horse the Jacksons purchased in Europe-a venture that would also include breeding the champion 2-year-old and 2000 Guineas winner George Washington (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who in an amazing feat won his Classic on the same day as Barbaro's Derby. After Superstar Leo was weaned from her last foal, a now 2-year-old colt by Havana Gold (Ire), the Jacksons repatriated her to Pennsylvania to enjoy her in retirement.

Even amidst breeding and campaigning Classic winners on both sides of the Atlantic, Gretchen Jackson said the experience with One Master has been “pretty up there.”

“We're really proud of her,” she said. “We have Superstar Leo in Pennsylvania now with all our retired broodmares, and to just visit her daily, and what she's accomplished with One Master, it just makes us glow inside. We love her.”

“We brought her over here to live out her life and she's turned out in a field right in front of the house here with Barbaro's dam and a filly that was very good to us named Belle Cherie, who was running around the same time as Superstar Leo,” Roy Jackson added. “They're out here enjoying life.”

Bred by legendary jockey Lester Piggott and Tony Hirschfeld, Superstar Leo was the ninth foal out of the placed Council Rock, whose family was somewhat ordinary at the time but which later blossomed to produce a plethora of black-type winners including Classic winners Footstepsinthesand (GB) and Power (GB) in addition to One Master. Superstar Leo was bought back by Piggott's daughter Maureen Haggas for 3,400gns at Tattersalls October as a yearling in 1999 and put into training with Haggas's husband William. After finishing second at first-asking in May of her 2-year-old campaign, Superstar Leo won a pair of races at Catterick before beating the boys at Royal Ascot in the G3 Norfolk S. It was that victory that caught the eye of Gretchen Jackson all the way over in Pennsylvania.

“I had read about her winning a race in England in the TDN,” she recalled. “The name Superstar Leo struck me, and I inquired about her and she was for sale. It took some negotiating with Lester Piggott and her other owner, Tony Hirschfeld, but we got her and she was a delight. She won the Cartier award for us just a few months later. We've gotten so much pleasure from her offspring and her granddaughter, One Master.”

As Jackson alluded to, Superstar Leo added victories over the colts in the G2 Flying Childers S. in the summer of 2000 and the Weatherbys Super Sprint. She was second in the G1 Phoenix S. and against elders in the G1 Prix de l'Abbaye on the Longchamp card that her granddaughter One Master would make her own between 2018 and 2020.

Just as significant as Superstar Leo's victories was the relationship she solidified between the Jacksons and the Haggases. William Haggas today trains most of the Jackson runners in Europe, and was responsible for both One Master and her stakes-winning dam Enticing (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}).

“He's a great person and a great trainer, and his wife [Maureen] enters into it wholeheartedly,” Gretchen said. “She's very talented too.”

Superstar Leo was retired to stud in 2002 and her second foal was Enticing, who emulated her dam by becoming a stakes-winning 2-year-old with a victory in the G3 Molecomb S. in 2006, just months after Barbaro and George Washington had won their respective Classics. Enticing would add the Listed Lansdown Fillies' S. at three and finish second in the G3 King George S. before going one better in that Glorious Goodwood feature for Haggas at four.

One Master, the fifth of 10 foals thus far out of Enticing, certainly inherited her dam's longevity moreso than her granddam's precocity. One Master was not seen on a racecourse until August of her 3-year-old campaign, but she promptly made up for lost time, breaking her maiden at second asking and adding the Listed October S. at Ascot before seasons' end. Just a few lengths away in a trio of stakes to kick off her 4-year-old campaign, One Master won the G3 Fairy Bridge S. that August before upsetting the G1 Prix de la Foret at 33-1.

“I remember watching the Prix de la Foret when she was four and she won it,” Gretchen Jackson recalled. “And I was as mad as the devil at William for not telling us that she could possibly win it, because we would have been there. He had no idea how she won it, though he was hoping she would.”

Happily, the Jacksons were at Longchamp a year later when One Master defended her title after placing in the G1 Queen Anne S. and G1 Falmouth S. They had also traveled to Kentucky to see her run fifth in the GI Breeders' Cup Mile the prior November, and to Hong Kong when she ran in the G1 Hong Kong Mile a month later.

“She took us on quite a tour,” Roy summarized.

The coronavirus pandemic meant that the Jacksons couldn't be there to see One Master make it a hat trick of Forets at Longchamp last October, or when she won the G3 Oak Tree S. at Glorious Goodwood in July on the same card that her year-younger half-brother Prompted (GB) (Bated Breath {GB}) took the Golden Mile H.

And although One Master's racing career came to an anti-climatic close when she was scratched from last year's Breeders' Cup Mile after tying up at Keeneland, the Jacksons still have plenty to look forward to with her as she visits Dubawi (Ire) for her first covering this year. One Master resides alongside her dam and five other Lael broodmares at New England Stud in Newmarket. Roy Jackson noted that New England's Peter Stanley has been just as pivotal in the Jacksons' enjoyment of the European industry as the Haggeses have been, and after discussing options with him for One Master they decided to simply “breed her to the best.”

One Master and Prompting were among three winners last year for Enticing-her now 3-year-old filly Arousing (GB) (Kodiac {GB}) won at Yarmouth at first asking in September in the Lael silks, and Roy noted that Haggas holds her in high regard. Soon after the turn of the new year, 4-year-old gelding Craved (GB) (Kodiac {GB}) became Enticing's sixth winner, firing off victories at Newcastle on Jan. 23 and Southwell on Feb. 9. Enticing's latest produce is a yearling full-brother to One Master, and she will unfortunately not have a foal for 2021 after slipping another foal by Fastnet Rock. A mating plan for this year has not yet been set in stone.

In addition to Enticing, the Jacksons have three other daughters of Superstar Leo in their broodmare band. The Listed Fleur de Lys Fillies' S. winner and G3 Jersey S. second Sentaril (GB) (Danehill Dancer {Ire}) has bred two winners for Lael and has a 2-year-old colt by Dabirsim (Fr) this year, and her full-sister Cloud Line (GB) is the dam of a winner and has a 2-year-old colt by Showcasing (GB). The 7-year-old Yaraki (GB) (Frankel {GB}), meanwhile, has joined the Jacksons' 21-strong American broodmare band in Kentucky and has already foaled a filly by Hard Spun this year.

The Jacksons also have a half-sister to George Washington, the 10-year-old Sea The Stars (Ire) mare Wonderstruck (Ire), at New England Stud, and her 3-year-old filly Ready To Venture (GB) (Kingman {GB}) was a winner in the Lael blue, green and white at second asking in September at Yarmouth for Haggas. Roy Jackson said Wonderstruck “is producing good, sound horses.”

The story of the Jacksons and George Washington is almost as serendipitous as that of Superstar Leo. The Jacksons bought into George Washington's half-brother Grandera (Ire) (Grand Lodge) and raced him with Viv Shelton during a 3-year-old campaign in which he won the Listed Dubai Arc Trial and was placed in the G1 Prix du Jockey Club, G1 Eclipse S. and G1 Juddmonte International for trainer James Fanshawe. Shelton and the Jacksons sold Grandera privately when they got a big offer from Godolphin, for whom he went on to win three Group 1s at four, and the Jacksons used part of their proceeds to purchase his dam, the Wildenstein-bred Bordighera (Alysheba), privately. The second foal she produced for the Jacksons was George Washington, who they sold to Coolmore for 1.15-million gns as a yearling. Roy said it was a tough decision to let George Washington go, but that they had decided to do so if the price was right.

“Over the years we've kept many and tried to race them, but it just made business sense,” he said. “We got a very big offer and we felt that it was time to recoup some of the money and do some other things in racing with the money. We thought it made business sense to do it.”

George Washington would, of course, go on to win the G1 Phoenix S. and G1 National S. at two and the G1 2000 Guineas and G1 Queen Elizabeth II S. at three and finish second in the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas. Fertility issues meant that he sired just one live foal in 2006, the winning and stakes-producing Date With Destiny (Ire), and he was sadly lost during the running of the 2007 GI Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park.

The Jacksons have, in more recent years, continued to apply the same formula that led to such great success with Superstar Leo and La Ville Rouge: purchasing top-class fillies in training. They bought Hawksmoor (Ire) (Azamour {Ire}) in 2016 from Chris Humber after she had won the G3 Prestige S. at two and placed in the G1 Fillies' Mile and G1 Prix Saint Alary for trainer Hugo Palmer, and she went on to win the G2 German 1000 Guineas in the Lael colours before transferring to American-based trainer Arnaud Delacour, for whom she won three Grade IIIs and placed in two Grade IIs. Hawksmoor is in foal for the first time to Palace Malice, a Classic-winning son of Curlin.

The Jacksons went back to Humber and Palmer the following spring to buy the listed placed Architecture (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}), and she went on to place in the Epsom, Irish and German Oaks before being bought by Katsumi Yoshida for 600,000gns at Tattersalls December in 2019. Last spring, the Jacksons purchased the G3 Prix Vanteaux winner Magic Attitude (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) from Haras du Saubouas ahead of her second-place finish in the G1 Prix Saint Alary. Switched to Delacour from Fabrice Chappet, Magic Attitude won the GI Belmont Oaks and was third in the GI Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, and is currently tuning up for a 4-year-old campaign.

“We've tried to do a bit of that, I guess somewhat related to our age too,” said Roy. He and Gretchen are both 84. “If something has a foal now, by the time it's going to run it's going to be some years down the road, so we're always looking to see whether there's something coming along that's going to run that we'll pick up.”

Speaking with Roy and Gretchen Jackson, one gets a sense that there is no measuring the pride they feel and they joy they have derived from their transatlantic racing and breeding programme. Both are lifelong horse people-Gretchen as a foxhunter and Roy as the son of a foxhunter whose mother later dabbled in racehorses-and thus understand the extreme ups and downs of the game, which they have themselves withstood as much as anyone. They both grew up somewhat locally to Chester County-Roy just 10 miles away in Edgemont and Gretchen in Philadelphia-and thus can boast a deep appreciation for the land on which Superstar Leo and La Ville Rouge now graze, and where legendary steeplechase conditioner Jonathan Sheppard once trained just a stone's throw away. Roy Jackson spent six years as a stockbroker before pursuing his passion of baseball, eventually owning a few professional teams and also working with minor league teams before helping to found Convest, a management firm for professional athletes in the mid 1980s. Jackson eventually sold his share in Convest to focus full-time on horse racing, and the labours of he and Gretchen's love in that realm have been a gift to fans of racing on both sides of the Atlantic.

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